Gary Astridge with Ringo Starr as they spend time with Ringo's first Ludwig drum set for the last time.
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In all of the years since The Beatles, there has never been an accurate undertaking to document & share the details of Ringo's Beatle drum sets & gear.
In June of 2013 I had the distinct honor and privilege of handling and documenting two of Ringo's Beatle drum sets and his Ludwig gold plated snare drum at the Grammy Museum in LA. This included being the first person since Mal Evans, the Beatles roadie, to set up Ringo's Sullivan and Let It Be drum setss. It was a pleasure having the assistance of Jeff Chonis (Ringo's drum technician since 1989), Scott Robert Ritchie (Ringo & Barbara's personal assistant), Jerry Buszek (fellow drummer & Grammy Museum design manager), Jim Elyea (Vox amplifier historian & author) and the entire Grammy Museum staff.
Since that time, I have been involved in numerous other projects and can say that I have now documented all of five of Ringo's Ludwig Beatle drum sets and his custom Ludwig Silver Sparkle kit used on the Hello Goodbye promo film. I can report that all five Ludwig Beatle drum sets are complete with no missing items. What I did not know is that a snare drum came with each of his five Ludwig sets and of the five, two have been lost to history. The Jazz Festival snare drum that came with his third OBP kit (the first Super Classic) is missing and the Supraphonic snare drum that came with his Maple kit was improperly stored and severely damaged beyond repair. In December of 2015, Ringo and his wife Barbara held an auction at Julien's Auctions in Beverly Hills. I was brought in to sort through, put together, research and document the drums that were sold at auction. Among the items sold were Ringo's first Ludwig Oyster Black Pearl kit, minus his 1963 Jazz Festival snare drum for $2,110,000. Buyer Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts. The 1965 Jazz Festival snare drum that came with Ringo's fourth Ludwig Oyster Black Pearl drum kit sold for $75,000 and the 1967 Ludwig Silver Sparkle Hello Goodbye kit sold for $100,000, both to anonymous buyers.
With the blessing of Ringo, Jeff, Scotty and I have successfully implemented our plan to photograph, document, organize, preserve and securely store each iconic kit for history and their hopeful future placement in a museum, whether it be short or long term. Our approach is to be certain that upcoming generations will be able to see and enjoy each drum set as Ringo used them. This has been the first true undertaking of its kind and I am overjoyed to be part of it.My interest in Ringo’s drum sets and gear came at a very young age and my collecting started in an unusual way. I was seven when I first watched The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. Other than riding my bike, I preferred to collect and scrutinize photos from magazines and news papers that I could find. I would use a magnifying glass to really look at the details of any photo that had to do with The Beatles and I remember sketching and tracing the details of Ringo's drums. Though I didn't have my first real drum set until 1969 and really new nothing about drums, I realized from the photos that Ringo had other drum sets in addition to the one that he played on the Sullivan show.
When I decided to buy a "Ringo kit" in the 80's, I ended up with a 3-piece Ludwig drum set from 1969, I thought I had asked the seller all of the right questions, and since I had nothing to reference, I thought I was getting the real deal.It turned out that the Oyster Black Pearl wrap was different from what Ringo had. The shells were covered in the so-called “Bowling Ball” wrap, a change made by Ludwig in 1969. Needless to say not knowing the difference is what sparked my interest in researching Ringo's drum sets.I continued spending countless hours reading books and magazines, scrutinizing thousands of photos and contacting anyone with knowledge regarding vintage drums, as well as people with a Beatles / Ringo Starr connection.
In addition to learning from vintage collectors and Ringo drum enthusiasts, my primary source of information has always been photographs until I was blessed with documenting the real thing. Detailed forensic analysis of photos has played a key role in providing information that verifies specific drums and hardware and gives a solid timeline.
When Andy Babiuk's book, Beatle Gear first came out, it confirmed much of what I already knew and gave great documentation of specific dates regarding when each kit was obtained.
That being said, please note that this website is a continual work in progress and kindly know that I have tried to verify every bit of information found on this site to keep things factual. I am always open to additional information and insight on this subject and will always give credit where credit is due.The go-to-guy for this subject would have been Mal Evans, The Beatles road manager and trusted friend. Unfortunately, Mal passed in 1976. The good news it that I've been able to locate and interview a good number other people that have been able to fill in many of the blanks and offer more insight and sometimes different versions of events that have, up until now, been taken as factual.
A few behind the scenes photos
In addition to setting up Ringo's third Ludwig Beatle drum set at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in advance of his 2015 induction, I was asked to be involved in the production of a video honoring Ringo. Note: Some language may be offensive to some viewers.